About Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel
Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel’s poetry and fiction recount her long, colorful story and those of the times and places she has lived, from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to the California Central Valley. It’s there that her family settled and she picked produce for the tables of the landed gentry as she gathered the words that became her art.
In the 1990s, Wilma sent me dozens of stories and poems, handwritten on unfolded envelopes and yellow legal pad pages, crammed into the blank spaces on bill inserts and bulk mailings, political propaganda and solicitations from the Diocese of Fresno. Occasionally, she would send something “typed for me by an angel with hazel eyes.” Although we published her regularly in our little journal, The Bridge, we intended to devote an entire issue to Wilma’s writing, but alas, life overwhelmed us, The Bridge washed away, and Wilma’s fabulous scraps of paper were pushed further and further toward the back of the file drawer, with a promise to one day resurrect them.
As I reread them now, I weep that many of them went unpublished while she was alive. But Wilma would have none of that! She joked as her eyesight diminished and her handwriting grew larger. She made fun of her dependence on a cane. She wrote that, “You will without any doubt live longer than I will. You had best have this bookmark”—a postcard touting a Charles Bukowski poster. How perfect.
The Poet Laureate of Tulare, Wilma died in 2007, and we’re damn lucky that her words live on, for which I will remain grateful until I, too, kick the bucket.